Breast feeding can be a minefield, and probably few events create more tension for a breastfeeding mum than family activities. The first thing to be aware of is that it’s absolutely legal to breastfeed in public in Britain and in Scotland. It’s actually illegal to discriminate against a breastfeeding woman. Not that it’s much help if it’s your family, or even worse your partner’s family, that has problems with your breastfeeding.
How family occasions affect your breastfeeding
It’s not just the disapproving glances or the audible gasps or tuts that older relatives can inadvertently give off when they catch you feeding. There’s quite a few ways that you can be affected by big family events. For example:
It’s not just the children that get a sugar rush during big events. From the extra drinking that goes on. Trust us, your mocktail will be full of sugar. Through to the lavish puddings or traditional treats that accompany anything from a silver wedding anniversary through to a bat mitzvah. Your diet is likely to alter substantially and rapidly. As our experienced maternity nurses can confirm, changes to the diet can affect the way you produce milk. Not only that but what you eat can alter the way your baby responds to your breast milk. Some new mums find their baby first demonstrates a food intolerance as a result of their consumption of unfamiliar food. It’s a rare but valid experience and the most likely culprits are. In order of effect: dairy foods, wheat, shellfood, peanuts.
Getting to places, meeting other people, fitting in with major events such as group photographs, religious or other ceremonies. These kinds of activities can really cause pressure. Then there’s the formal dinner, drinking in the evening, wearing unfamiliar clothing. Are you getting the message? While these activities are all fantastically fun and might be something you’ve been looking forward to for months. They create tension and nothing affects successful lactation like tension. A professional maternity nurse can help you work out a schedule for even the biggest event that gives you enough relaxation time to ensure you are calm and your baby settles easily to feed.
But the really big issue, the elephant in the room. Family attitudes. Here are our hints and tips to make things easier for all concerned.
When planning your outfits, especially for a special event, the first consideration should be ease of access to the breast. This can be tricky when formalwear is required. Consider wearing a button up dress. A formal shirt with a skirt or a camisole top covered by a lacy overblouse. Always try on your clothing in your feeding bra to see how noticeable it is. If necessary, speak to the organiser beforehand and explain your needs. Making it clear that you’re going to have to alter the dress code and don’t be offended if they put you at the back of the photos as a result!
There are few things more distressing than receiving unhappy looks, or even comments, whilst you’re feeding your baby. But there are ways to disarm such folk. First, ask the event organiser to set aside a corner for you to feed. A chair in a secluded area or a corner of an otherwise crazy party not only gives you space to settle with your baby but gives the easily shocked a place not to go. Of course some mums feel they shouldn’t be excluded from centre-stage. If it’s your event you have every right to insist. But if it’s not your special occasion it’s sometimes better to accept a compromise.
Perhaps the least considered aspect of big events is the location. Weddings outdoors or family parties held in glitzy ballrooms can both present real problems for the breastfeeding mother. Opt for sensible shoes. A really big shawl and deputise somebody to be your ‘minder’. This means that if you need to feed they can help you find a suitable place to settle and field any enquiries about how your doing.